What is the Maritime Security Program (MSP) or U.S. Flag ships?

Excerpt from the United States Maritime Administration

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) was first passed in 1996, and originally comprised a fleet of 47 U.S. flag militarily-useful vessels. The MSP was reauthorized in 2003 and expanded to a fleet of 60 militarily-useful vessels for FY 2006-2015. On January 2, 2013, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) extending the program to 2025.

MSP is a vital element of our military’s strategic sealift and global response capability.  Congress authorized the current 60 ship MSP fleet on the basis that it was and continues to be the most prudent, economical, and necessary solution to address the current and projected sealift requirements for the United States of America. The MSP provides financial assistance to operators of U.S. flag vessels that meet certain qualifications.

The MSP maintains a modern U.S. flag fleet providing military access to vessels and vessel capacity, as well as a total global, intermodal transportation network. This network includes not only vessels, but logistics management services, infrastructure, terminals facilities and U.S. citizen merchant mariners to crew the government owned/controlled and commercial fleets.

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  • The MSP was originally established in 1996 as a 10-year program for up to 47 vessels in U.S. registry. Reauthorized in 2003 for 10 more years, the number of ships in the fleet was increased from 47 to 60.
  • The MSP maintains a core fleet of U.S.-flag, privately-owned ships operating in international commerce which are also available under agreement to provide capacity needed to meet Department of Defense (DOD) requirements during war and national emergencies.
  • All MSP dry cargo ships are enrolled in the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement.
  • MSP tankers are enrolled in the Voluntary Tanker Agreement.
  • Approximately 128,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEU’s), 3.1 million square feet and over 103 thousand DWT of tanker capacity are committed to DOD through MSP obligations.
  • MSP ship crews are a major source for the DOD surge fleet. The MSP contributes approximately 2,700 mariner positions to the U.S. deepwater seafarer base.


Photo Source: www.marad.dot.gov

Office of Sealift Support
202-493-2180 (fax)